Utah Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property Law

Property law refers to the legal rules regulating property rights, the rights and duties that individuals and the state have to tangible or intangible possessions.

A. Property Law Concepts
1. Real Property: Refers to land and anything attached to it permanently, like buildings, or natural resources.
2. Personal Property: Everything that is not real property, such as cars, jewelry, stocks, etc.
3. Tangible and Intangible Property: Tangible property is property that can be touched like land, goods, etc., whereas intangible property cannot be touched, like patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

II. Land Possession and Ownership

A. Adverse Possession
Adverse possession is a legal doctrine that allows a trespasser to gain legal ownership of a property if they possess it in a manner that is open, notorious, continuous, and adverse for a certain period. In Utah, the required period is seven years (Utah Code Ann. § 78B-2-208).

B. Case Law: Eyring v. Johnson, 976 P.2d 210 (Utah 1999)
Issue: Whether the defendant satisfied the requirements for adverse possession?
Rule: The adverse possessor must have a continuous, open, and notorious possession of the property for a period of seven years.
Analysis: The court held that the defendant satisfied all the requirements for claiming adverse possession.
Conclusion: The defendant was granted ownership of the property.

III. Easements

A. Easement Concepts
An easement is a non-possessory right to use another person’s land for a specific purpose. There are two types: affirmative and negative easements.

B. Case Law: Mitchell v. Clayton, 995 P.2d 666 (Utah 2000)
Issue: Whether an easement by implication was created when the property was divided?
Rule: An easement by implication can be created when the use of the property is apparent, continuous, and necessary at the time of the division.
Analysis: The court found that the use of the driveway was apparent, continuous, and necessary at the time of the division.
Conclusion: The court held that an easement by implication was created.

IV. Encumbrances and Liens

A. Encumbrance Concepts
An encumbrance is a claim or liability attached to a property which may lessen its value or obstruct its use but does not prevent the transfer of ownership.

B. Lien Concepts
A lien is a form of encumbrance that makes property security for the payment of a debt or discharge of an obligation.

V. Landlord and Tenant Law

A. Landlord/Tenant Concepts
Utah has specific laws governing landlord-tenant relations. Key concepts include tenant rights, landlord’s duties, lease and rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, and fair housing.

B. Case Law: B & B Investment Co. v. Zions First Nat. Bank, N.A., 860 P.2d 11 (Utah 1993)
Issue: Whether the landlord wrongfully withheld the security deposit?
Rule: In Utah, a landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days of termination of the rental agreement unless it is used for unpaid rent, damages, or cleaning fees.
Analysis: The court held that the landlord did not provide the tenant with an itemized receipt of deductions and thus wrongfully withheld the security deposit.
Conclusion: The court ruled in favor of the tenant.

VI. Zoning and Land Use

A. Zoning Concepts
Zoning is the regulation of the uses of property in specific geographic zones.

B. Case Law: Beaver County v. Utah SITLA, 282 P.3d 24 (Utah 2012)
Issue: Whether the county’s zoning ordinance was constitutional?
Rule: A zoning ordinance must be in accordance with a comprehensive plan and designed to protect public health and safety.
Analysis: The court found that the zoning ordinance was arbitrary and not related to public health or safety.
Conclusion: The court held that the county’s zoning ordinance was unconstitutional.

VII. Property Rights and Environmental Law

A. Environmental Law Concepts
Property rights can also be affected by environmental laws. Owners have to comply with regulations regarding air and water pollution, waste management, and conservation.

B. Case Law: Sierra Club v. BNSF Railway Co., Washington Supreme Court, 2017
Issue: Whether the railway company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants without a permit?
Rule: The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters without a permit.
Analysis: The court found that the railway company discharged pollutants into navigable waters without a permit.
Conclusion: The court held that the railway company violated the Clean Water Act.

In conclusion, it’s important to understand the foundational concepts of property law, the case law that has shaped it, and the specific rules and regulations in Utah. This guide provides a comprehensive review of the key topics but should be supplemented with further reading and problem-solving exercises.

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